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Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan

Exhibition dates: March 6 - June 16, 2002
Exhibition location: Special Exhibition Galleries, first floor
Press preview: Monday, March 4, 10:00 a.m.-noon

A major traveling exhibition of ancient Chinese art from Sichuan will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 6, 2002. Featuring a spectacular selection of works of art, Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan explores the fascinating world of the art, material culture, and spiritual life of ancient Sichuan, and illustrates the fundamental changes that archaeology has brought to our understanding of the history of Chinese art.

Dating from the 13th century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D., the 127 works on view in the exhibition include monumental bronze images of deities, lively human figures, fantastic bronze vessels, exquisite jades, and spirited ceramic sculptures that are among the most unusual and striking objects created in the Bronze Age. Most of the works will be shown for the first time in the United States.

The exhibition was organized by the Seattle Art Museum in collaboration with The Bureau of Cultural Relics, Sichuan Province of the People's Republic of China. The Boeing Company provided the leadership grant for the exhibition with major support from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

In New York, the exhibition is made possible in part by The Dillon Fund.

In the summer of 1986, the discovery of an ancient city at Sanxingdui, a small village located 40 kilometers northeast of the capital of Sichuan province, shook the world of Chinese archaeology. While digging up clay for making bricks, workmen found two staggeringly rich, rectangular deposits buried around 1200 B.C, which together yielded hundreds of bronzes, stone and gold implements, gold objects, and elephant tusks. It was the most stunning discovery in Sichuan, which had until then been considered a marginal area in cultural development but was now found to be the homeland of a highly developed civilization with a sophisticated bronze industry and an extraordinary tradition of art.

Among the highlights of the exhibition are a 12th-century B.C. bronze figure of a man standing on a high pedestal that rises to 260.8 cm and weighs 180 kg, a four- meter-tall bronze tree with fantastic birds perched on its branches, several enormous bronze masks of supernatural beings, also from 12th century B.C., and lively pottery figures from the first and second century A.D. These examples represent an unprecedented sculptural tradition of great artistic strength that flourished in ancient Sichuan.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue entitled Ancient Sichuan: Treasures from a Lost Civilization, edited by Robert Bagley, Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. It will be available at the Museum's Bookshop for $60 (hardcover only).

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum will offer a series of programs, including lectures, gallery talks, and films.

In New York, the exhibition will be curated by Jason Sun, Associate Curator of the Department of Asian Art. Exhibition design is by Michael C. Batista, Exhibition Designer, with graphics by Jill Hammarberg, Graphic Designer, and lighting by Zack Zanolli, Lighting Designer.

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September 6, 2001

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